July is known for its backyard barbecues and fantastic sunsets, but the seventh month of the year is also famous for its “bugs” – the edible kind. Divers often refer to the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, as a “bug” because these crustaceans and insects come from the same phylum, Arthropoda.
Divers who participate in the two-day “mini” season, scheduled for July 24-25, re often called bug hunters. If someone asks why, tell them that’s because lobster and insects share some common traits, including jointed appendages – legs, antennae and mouthparts – as well as rigid external skeletons that molt or shed as they grow.
If you do go lobstering, you’ll need to know how to measure a lobster. The average bug has a carapace (the shell that covers its body) length of 3 inches and weighs about 1 pound. Small lobsters are too "short" to take legally. Lobster must be measured in the water and possession of a measuring device is required at all times.
You will also need to know how to identify an egg-bearing female. Female lobsters carry eggs (you will see them directly under the tail) for about a month anytime between April and August.
An egg-bearing female is said to be "berried" and under regulations they must be released unharmed. The bag limit during the mini season is six per person per day in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park and 12 per person per day for all other areas in Florida.
The regular recreational opens Aug. 6 and runs through March 31, closing on April 1. During the regular season, the bag limit is six per person per day.